Saffron is a wonderful spice. It is both delicate and powerful. The spice itself is the dried sexual organ of a crocus flower (Crocus sativus). Someone, walking around in Southeast Asia 3,000 years ago decided, upon seeing the bright red stigma lolling out of the flower base, to pluck them, dry them, and put them in whatever people were using at the time (and hope that wouldn’t kill them). They ended up in salves, in potions, in aphrodisiacs, and eventually in food.
Cooked, it gives food a hay-like aroma (in a good way), a slightly bitter edge (good for subduing cloying flavors), and a deep orange-red color (if you use enough). The only thing saffron has going against it is its price. It weighs almost nothing, so you need a lot to make an ounce. Since each crocus flower yields three individual strands of saffron, it works out to be somewhere between $500 and $5,000 per pound. The good thing, though, is that it is sold by the quarter-ounce ($8-$80 per package, depending on the varietal).
So, for the last home-cooked meal at my current place, I decided to go fancy…
SHRIMP AND ANDOUILLE WITH SAFFRON RICE
2 tsp olive oil
10 oz andouille sausage, sliced into rounds
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup long grain or basmati rice, uncooked
1 can chicken broth
12-15 strands saffron, crumbled
1/2 cup frozen peas
3/4 cup pre-cooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
Salt and pepper
In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add sausage and cook until slightly browned on both sides, about 5-7 minutes. Add onion and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add broth, rice, and saffron, mix thoroughly and bring to a mild boil. Lower heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add peas, cover, and cook for 3 minutes. Add shrimp and heat through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Makes 4 servings. Enjoy.